Monthly Market Outlook

A remarkable recovery, but are we out of the woods yet?

July 2020 (Click here to download)

Even the most seasoned investor will admit that the recovery in equity and fixed income markets over recent weeks has been surprisingly fast. But with market volatility still at large, how confident should investors really be feeling?

Given the continued uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, it would have been wrong to assume a sharp recovery in equity markets after such a deep shock back in March. Yet, here we are. With equity returns now higher than they were for most of 2019, the recovery has been extraordinary.

This is largely due to the vast amount of government stimulus being pumped into the economy – particularly in the US – and signs that the real economy is re-opening for business. However, as Beijing was forced back into lockdown in mid-June, markets wobbled, and this was a stark reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.

An improving but tentative outlook 

While the level of volatility has subsided over recent weeks, it remains elevated, and we should expect further jitters until there is more certainty over a vaccine. Forward looking economic indicators such as the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) are improving, but they are still predicting an economic contraction. Indeed, the global economy is unlikely to recover for two years or more, and there will be a significant impact on certain sectors of the job market. So, while there is plenty to feel optimistic about, we must continue to remind ourselves that we’re in the middle of one of the most significant economic events in recent history, and times are likely to be tough.

The Sanlam approach

For that reason, the Manager has returned to a largely neutral stance on equities, meaning it doesn’t see many buying opportunities for now. Back in March, the dramatic correction meant it was comfortable taking slightly more risk since prices were low. As valuations have continued to recover, the Manager has sold some of those opportunistic stocks to realise their value and lessen some of the risk it was taking. The Manager is now focusing on companies that offer good long-term returns and have a stable cash flow, and those that can protect portfolios from the threat of inflation. The Manager looks at why inflation is a threat in more detail in the ‘Investment View’ section.

“The strong recovery in asset prices from the
low of 23 March has eroded the margin of
safety in equity and fixed income markets.
While the outlook has improved, current
market prices do not fully compensate for
the risks that still exist.”

Philip Smeaton
Chief Investment Officer
Sanlam Private Wealth

20.4%
The drop in UK GDP during April – the first full
month of lockdown. The fall dwarfed the 1%
decline in September 2008 at the peak of the
financial crisis.

Investment View: Why should we be worried about inflation?

With inflation figures falling and interest rates at an all-time low, it might seem strange to be talking about inflation as a risk. So, why do we continue to worry about it? The reason is simple: very low interest rates, a swathe of quantitative easing and large amounts of government spending – paid for by printed money.

But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? This has all the hallmarks of the handling of the credit crisis, and we didn’t experience rising inflation back then. There are, however, two significant differences between the credit crisis and the current Covid-19 situation:

  • The sheer scale of today’s quantitative easing programme dwarfs that of 2008.
  • In 2008, the banking system absorbed the money created through quantitative easing and withdrew lending to other parts of the economy. In today’s crisis, banks have increased their lending, which will give people and businesses purchasing power they have not created themselves. A balanced economy relies on people being able to buy goods and services when they have contributed to the economy in the first place. Expanding the money supply enables some people to take from the economy without contributing to it, which forces prices up.

How to protect against rising inflation

It has been several years since we’ve experienced a high inflation environment, and many investors could be caught out as a result. The reality is that market conditions could become extremely tough, and it will almost certainly give rise to increased volatility in equity markets. That said, there are ways to protect against inflation, and the good news is that these ‘insurances’ are still relatively cheap given the risks at large:

Equities

In a high inflationary environment, it’s important to choose stocks accordingly. Focus on goods and services that everyone needs and wants, regardless of the prevailing market conditions. These companies can usually increase their prices along with inflation, and consumers will still be prepared to pay for them.

Bonds

Inflation-linked bonds are a good way of hedging against inflation because they increase in value during inflationary periods. These bonds are relatively well-priced at the moment, which makes them attractive.

Gold

Gold is also a good hedge against inflation as it holds its value while paper currencies depreciate and lose purchasing power.

The Sanlam approach

The Manager believes it’s prudent to have a balance of good inflation-proof investments right now, and it has been able to position portfolios to defend against the risk of inflation without having to pay over the odds for those insurances. It won’t happen overnight, if indeed it does manifest at all. But as the Manager sees it, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Source: Sanlam Private Wealth

Sanlam Private Wealth is a trading name of Sanlam Private Investments (UK) Ltd.

Disclaimer
This document is intended for use by professional financial advisers only. The distribution of VAM Funds and the offering of the shares may be restricted in certain jurisdictions. Private investors should contact their financial adviser for more details on any of the products featured. It is the responsibility of any person in possession of this document to inform themselves of, and to observe, all applicable laws and regulations of any relevant jurisdictions. Prospective applicants for shares should inform themselves as to the legal requirements and consequences of applying for, holding and disposing of shares and any applicable exchange control regulations and taxes in the countries of their respective citizenship, residence or domicile. Click for Important Information